In a former life I was a deejay. My mother use to say this was the perfect career choice for me - getting paid to talk. After all, she always said "Julia could carry on a conversation with a rock!" One of my nicknames growing up was "Motor Mouth". I could talk about anything, anytime, anywhere with anyone for any length of time. Fast forward several years or so - Chatty Cathy runs into infertility and then recurrent pregnancy loss. Was she still talking?
Well - initially, I really didn't have any trouble talking about the fact that it was taking a little longer to get pg than we anticipated. Though - this was to a select few, namely my sister and sister in law. Ironically enough - both of them were pregnant at the time. I discussed temperature charting, seeing a doctor and taking Clomid. Talking about it wasn't something I could see not doing - this was my life, these were the things I was experiencing. In phone calls home - those were the answers to "how are you doing?". Then I began having miscarriages. At first I talked about those too - I needed love and support and so I talked about my losses. Though, I found to my dismay that I wasn't getting the response back that I expected or needed. Oftentimes I felt like I had to try and make everyone else feel better. They were uncomfortable and didn't know what to say or do. I can understand that - but if they were uncomfortable and unsure, then I was completely lost. Then came the day when the every 48 hours beta hcgs over 3 weeks begin to clearly show I was losing my third pregnancy and I "told", the response was "are you sure you were even pregnant?" At that point I was tired. Tired of looking for comfort and not getting it - of disappointing everyone else when I was so disappointed myself as well, and definitely tired of trying to make this whole miserable personal experience better for everybody when nothing was better for me. So, I stopped talking - as much. I didn't volunteer. If they asked - then I felt they should be prepared for what they got. I wasn't going to broach the subject anymore. I found my miscarriages a very lonely and isolating experience. Telling or not telling anyone didn't really change that result much.
My sister called me one day frustrated with her 2 toddlers and sick with her 3rd pregnancy. A pregnancy that was due within days of my due date for a baby I had been pregnant with 2 pregnancies prior. We had compared notes almost daily. When she began spotting - I was the one reassuring her. My pregnancy ended at 12 weeks. Her pregnancy went on and she delivered a HUGE 10 lb 4 oz baby the day after my now defunct due date. She called looking for sympathy and I snapped. She didn't get what she expected from me apparantly and next thing I know, our MOM is calling me and taking me to task for not being more sympathetic to my sister. Mom said "she is sick and tired and pregnant. It's hard running after little kids all day. Sometimes you just need a little chance to boo hoo a bit and have someone feel sorry for you and help you feel better. " I acknowledged that she was deserving of compassion and sympathy - but to go looking for it from the person who was still bleeding from her third miscarriage and who would love to need sympathy of that kind was not the best of ideas. I told her it hurt and while I was no longer pg and only running after one kid, I still needed a chance to boo hoo a bit too and have someone feel sorry for me and help ME feel better! Granted it wasn't one of my more mature exchanges - though it got the point across. However, I did decide something after this experience, when I spoke about the difficulties my husband and I were having in the procreation department, it was not going to be for purposes of having someone feel sorry for me and give me sympathy and comfort, it was going to be to educate them! Whatever gets you through the day - but yes, that's the mission I put myself on - miscarrying martyr. I have to admit it wasn't completely out of a desire to educate - some of it was to just be onery because I was flat out tired of trying to make everyone else feel better about my pain and make things easier for them. Now, I was not in the habit of talking about our personal issues with everyone - very close friend(s) and only family I felt particularly close to. Later on though - this changed, I started finding it was easier to talk about things with complete and absolute strangers.
After "accosting" a seatmate on an airplane flight to Phoenix and giving her my complete history and finding not only sympathy - but empathy, because she herself had struggled, I felt like I was onto something. Following my 5th miscarriage in 1998 I began looking for a support group. I knew I needed to be able to talk about my experiences and frustrations. I tried talking with my husband about things - but that only got me so far. My family and friends were out too as they had no frame of reference - they offered the best support they could, but it often fell short of what I really needed. I needed people who understood what I was going through because they had been through it themselves. When someone who has been there done that tells you it will get better - you have a tendency to give more credence to their words. Living in a very small rural town my options were rather limited- there were no real-life support groups in town. I had internet access at the public library, but only email at home. Researching the internet at the library I came across an email support group - Subsequent Pregnancy After a Loss (Spals). I had an outlet to talk and talk and talk and talk and talk - about everything, all of it! No one said "why do you keep doing this to yourself" or "to us"? No one offered useless advice. They didn't start squirming and try to rapidly change the subject when I said I was feeling upset that day because it was the due date for the baby I had just lost. Talking to strangers was "safe" and I could still retain a sense of anonymity. I didn't have to maintain a familial relationship with them and I could be completely open and honest about my feelings and not have to worry about saying something that would come back to bite me in the proverbial tushy later on over Thanksgiving dinner. (No more shame on you phone calls from mom!) I also didn't have to worry about anyone belittling my pain or saying "but it wasn't even a real baby!" when I began to give names to my angels as part of my healing process. Never once did I have to endure the words again "aren't you over that yet?"
Something else happened while I was talking to strangers - I was giving back what I was being given. A whole new avenue of healing opened up to me and I found that offering my understanding and support to other women who were also struggling in the way I had/was had some amazing effects. I was no longer feeling as alone or isolated as I once had - some of the bumps and craters felt a little less bumpy and deep. Eventually though - many of those strangers became some of my closest friends. That's kind of a funny thing to say because some of these close friends I have never even met in real life. For a long time I called it "cheap therapy", but now I call it comradeship - unmeasurable in worth. They were the ones who helped pick me up, dusted me off and gave me the courage to get back on the horse again if I wanted and let me spill a thousands tears when I fell off again - hard. I can only hope I was as helpful to those I encountered during my years on Spals as they were to me.
If I could go back and change whether I talked about it or not - I can't say I would keep things exactly the same - though I definitely would stick with the support group. That's the funny thing about hindsight - always 20/20 and I had to go with what I had at the time. I was feeling so vulnerable anyway - that opening myself up and verbalizing that vulnerability didn't seem like such a big step, for me anyway - since traditionally I've always been a talker. For someone else - it may only be just even more salt in a very raw, very deep wound. However, I saw it as a chance that someone might just say the right thing or offer the shoulder I desperately needed at that particular moment and I opened my mouth. Sometimes you have to ask the question before you get the answer.
And that is what I get for opening my big mouth . . .